Lou Reed & Metallica - Lulu
Review by Jack Foley
ADMITTEDLY, the pairing of Lou Reed with Metallica never seemed like a match made in heaven. But who knew it would turn out to be one that’s actually made in hell.
Lulu may have been keenly anticipated but it’s a strange and ugly brew indeed. And one that’s as uncomfortable for most of the time sonically as it almost always is lyrically.
The genesis of the album was the suite of new music written by Reed for a startling new staging of Frank Wedekind’s Lulu Plays in Berlin and the narrative of the album unfolds from the perspective of a woman… but a pained woman at that.
It plays more to Reed’s sensibilities than Metallica’s, embodying Reed’s often stated aim to set the spirit of Burroughs, Selby and Poe to three or four chords, and to marry the gutter and the stars, to fuse trash and majesty.
Alas, with Metallica often providing their trademark heavy riff-making (or thrashing) as a backdrop, or at other times feeling curiously and unhealthily reigned in, the mix sounds wildly uneven.
Reed, for his part, seldom raises his vocal tone above his trademark gruff, lifeless monotone, which seems like a waste, especially when some tracks drone on for in excess of eight or even 11 minutes – hence the need to have the album split over two CDs. But again, there’s a feeling of missed opportunity in the failure to really broaden the sound, mix it up or even throw in a surprise.
Indeed, it’s a hefty blow to state that Lulu is exactly the sound of what you might expect from a collaboration between these two unlikely musical bed-fellows and the sex is downright ugly for most of the time.
Pumping Blood, in particular, feels more of an endurance test than a song that, I’d wager, may struggle to keep even fans of Reed or Metallica hooked. While other moments such as Frustration and Dragon fail to deliver anything but frustration.
Admittedly, there are a handful of interesting moments. Album opener Brandenburg Gate is one of the more bearable moments… building from an acoustic backdrop and some alarming lyrics (“I would cut my legs and tits off when I think of Boris Karloff”) to incorporate some thrillingly heavy licks and an emphatically delivered chorus from James Hetfield.
While Iced Honey conforms to more of a classic rock structure and may even get your toes tapping along (hell, Reed even does his best to sing as opposed to merely speak the lyrics).
But even The View, the lead single, flatters to deceive… the crunching opening riffs promising more than they deliver and being letdown by Reed’s lifeless tones.
At almost 90 minutes, the journey really isn’t worth taking unless you’re a glutton for punishment.
Download picks: Brandenburg Gate, Iced Honey, Junior Dad